Las Vegas Sun

March 30, 2017

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Guest column:

Heck’s unfounded attacks cross line

In the three decades I served Nevada as a legislator, attorney general, governor and senator, I saw my fair share of negative attacks. But politics used to be seen as civil discourse — two sides who disagree but ultimately work together and find compromises on how best to move our country forward.

Most people enter public service because they want to better our country, have a discussion with people with opposing views and make compromises that solve problems Americans are facing. Unfortunately, in our hotly contested Senate race this year, Congressman Joe Heck’s campaign released an outrageous website attacking Catherine Cortez Masto’s integrity. These attacks from the Heck campaign cross a line I have never seen crossed before in all my years in public service. These attacks go far beyond a debate over the issues or the candidates’ records.

I’ve known Masto for years, and she has served Nevada with integrity and grace as a prosecutor and as our attorney general. She has a record of solving problems and fighting for Nevada families. As attorney general she passed more than 40 bills with Republican and Democratic support, demonstrating her commitment to working across party lines to get things done.

Her record as our attorney general has earned her the support of law enforcement officials across the state who have worked with her and know she is a person of unquestionable integrity with an ability to get things done in a dysfunctional Washington. I’ve seen her in action. She brings Republicans and Democrats together, listens to all ideas and comes up with solutions that get real results.

Heck may not agree with Masto’s way of doing things, and that’s OK. We’re a diverse country with differing ideas, and our Founding Fathers built this country in a way that promotes debate between opposing sides. Heck has been to Washington. He knows what unfounded personal attacks do to our country’s civil discourse.

This campaign should be a conversation about the issues. Masto presents her ideas for moving the country forward, and Heck should do the same. Highlighting concerns with your opponent’s ideas and voting record is fair game. Attacking your opponent’s personal character — and falsely, I might add — is what turns people away from politics.

In a time when partisan dysfunction in Washington is at its worst, Masto is running on her record of working across party lines to get things done. Heck may disagree with how Masto wants to move our country forward — that’s why we have elections — but there is no place for personal attacks that are intended to deceive voters.

Richard Bryan served as Nevada’s governor from 1983 to 1989 and as a U.S. senator from 1989 to 2001.